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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Public Lecture - The Fading Evidence of Reality: Leonardo and the End

4th November 2015, 17:15 to 18:15, Holgate House, Grey College , Professor Carlo Vecce, Instituto Universitario Orientate, Naples, Italy

Leonardo da Vinci doesn’t like the “End”. As an artist, very few times he finishes his works, just because forced by his patrons, and mostly leaves them unaccomplished (the Adoration, the Sforza horse, the Battle of Anghiari). More than an incapability to finish, this aptitude reflects the very modern position of Leonardo (as a scientist and a philosopher) towards nature and reality, conceived as in movement, in continuous metamorphosis. We can trace it even in his writings, the most private and personal part of his laboratory. His textuality is a kind of ‘unended’ writing, without hierarchy, open to all research possibilities.

Leonardo doesn’t finish any treatise or any book (libro): he leaves ‘open’ thousands and thousands of texts. More, there is no ‘end’ (border) between text and image: one merges in the other, in a complementary connection. Leonardo’s unended writing and painting correspond to his idea of reality as an universal ‘continuous quantity’. Objects look to have borders, contours (in Italian, fini and termini), but in fact the limit of a body is just the beginning of another body, and it is impossible to understand exactly the precise moment when we pass from an entity to the other. So, the ‘end’, the ‘limit’, doesn’t exist: it is ‘nothing’, and ‘nothing’ are the point, the line and the surface, the principles of geometry and also of painting. Leonardo’s paradoxal conclusion is that painting (and reality, and our knowledge of reality, and its fading evidence) is simply based on ‘nothing’.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Details about Professor Carlo Vecce

Directions to Holgate House, Grey College

Map - Grey College is denoted as building No. 8

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